Which Supply Chain Trends Are Here to Stay?

Businesses must adapt to new technology as it changes, and to new standards of society as they change as well. Things that were doable and practical 100 years ago have all but vanished or been replaced by more efficient means. Even just 21 years ago, at the turn of the millennium, company structures and methods were far different. They’ve been outdated and replaced. It’s only a matter of time until something happens which the industry must adapt to. Either a new innovation which brings everything one step forward, or a calamity which sets everything a step back.

In 2020 and on into 2021, we’ve seen a bit of the former and a bit of the latter. Innovations in smart technology have revolutionised much of the daily procedures for warehousing, while the global pandemic put the supply chain under a calamitous pressure. Any business that could not adapt in time was crushed by those who could. The trends we thought were dependable have been replaced.

What can we expect to continue on into the future?

Fixing the Chain

New organisations are coming up offering a solution to the broken supply chain, for a price. Supply chain as a service is a new strategic opportunity wherein businesses can help “replace” whatever part of the chain has been broken between two existing parties. These businesses are highly profitable and are using all the latest technology to provide their partners with procurement, production, manufacturing, quality assurance, warehousing and logistics. Instead of stretching the existing chain tighter, they are filling in essential spaces to give it some slack.

Cloud Supplies

The pandemic initially put a great deal of stress on physical locations by introducing, and since reintroducing, strict personnel requirements that included distancing and quarantines which led to many labor shortages. Offices had to be cleared out, and employees responsible for day-to-day logistics had to work from home. New companies have taken this experience and formed their business around making that transition easier, and increasing efficiency through it, to reduce the loss of effort that happens when too many people are missing from the production office. And it’s all digital. Wireless inventory management and file storage is also becoming more popular because it’s cheaper and easier to access than having a whole room full of servers in the building.

Paint the Chain Green

We’ve been hit with double-whammies of problems for a long time now. Climate change concerns are constantly in the news, because they keep happening. The planet is changing for the worse because of fossil fuels, the most of which are generated by the supply chain itself. Manufacturing, production, and most importantly shipping all create a smoke cloud of responsibility and negativity. Companies have started introducing greener policies which have led to increased customer retention. Electronic vehicle technology is improving to the point where long-distance batteries may be possible, and driverless trucks could become a potential solution to labor shortages. Meanwhile, simple recycling through Circular Economies is improving the margins for companies who take in discarded material and remake them into brand-specific new merchandise. It keeps supplies inclusive, without the need for increasingly difficult imports, and keeps the business moving.

Building a New Chain

A chain only needs one weak point for the whole thing to break apart. When the entire process of order to receipt can only go one way, when one thing goes wrong, the whole chain is to blame. Companies are now investing in new strategies to test the elasticity and resilience of their own supply chain economics. This requires approaching the same problems in new ways and introducing more flexibility to eliminate delays in the standard process. This will include re-shoring production to more stable, reliable countries, re-strategising for “just-in-case” stockpiles, multi-sourcing more vendors and delivery routes, and improving supplier relationships. These are strategies that will grow more important as time goes on, but need to be applied soon to reach the desired effect.

High Mobility

With remote work and distance learning comes a new emphasis on mobile technology. We’re already suffering under the presence of a supposedly “temporary” chip shortage as companies move away from one source and are finding it hard to get enough supplies from another. This likely won’t slow down, so suppliers will have to work more closely with manufacturers to ensure they get their needed products first. Closer manufacture-supply-shipping relationships will help keep these bonds afloat even through pandemic changes. Mobile technology is becoming one of the “essentials” in modern day business for nearly every single business in the world. So supplying it will be more important than ever.

Robotics and AI

As our technology continues to develop and improve, it will inevitably outclass us as workers. Machines already handle most of the heavy lifting and necessary minutia of essential labor, and now those machines are set to replace some of the tedium of logistics as well. AI learning algorithms can adapt to a company’s inventory system and order them automatically. 90% of companies already use AI for a range of logistic issues, including contract management and automated payments and spending analytics. These give the insight needed to make immediate or long-lasting decisions without human error or bias. Combine this with cloud technology, which makes these softwares available from anywhere to anywhere and the hard process of tracking and inventory is reinforced with reliable, fast-working automation.


Ending the Long Haul

Long haul shipping may be ending in the future, as customers have become more wary of just how much is wasted when they shop overseas. With the reliability of always-available goods jeopardised, people have turned to local economies and have stressed the importance of micro-supply chains. These are networks of manufacturing, warehousing and shipping that exist within a single, relatively small area. Instead of waiting for a container to meet ground at the LA shipping docks, along with millions of others, consumers are more willing to pay higher for the convenience of something shipped locally to their nearest store. A high-agility supply chain that can react to local manufacturing has a higher sustainability at the cost of a smaller area of work.

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